Betul district’s Rajjad community, who claim that they are descended from the Pandavas from the Mahabharata, roll on thorny bushes on a day of the Hindu month of Agahan to ‘prove’ their royal lineage.
The day, which was on Sunday this year, is marked by a mass celebration in the community at Bijasani village in Athner locality.
“We are descendants of the great Pandavas. Our tradition of rolling on the bushes has been on since then,” Harikishan Chawalkar, a teacher told HT.
According to Chawalkar, their custom has deep roots in the Mahabharata.
“The five Pandavas had once come to the jungles here to hunt. Later, they became thirsty and were searching for a pond to quench their thirst, but couldn’t find one. Then they asked a local Bhil boy for directions, who agreed but only on the condition that they marry their sister off to him. As they Pandavas didn’t have any sister, they adopted a local Korku girl as their sister and married her off to the Bhil,” he said.
“After the marriage the Bhil put another condition, just before the ‘vidai’ — he said they had to prove themselves as ‘true’ by rolling over thorny bushes,” he said, adding that the Rajjad community has continued the tradition ever since to celebrate their sister’s ‘vidai’.
Another member of the community, Namdev Likhitkar, said that they don’t feel any pain. “When we roll over the bushes, we are being protected by god and our ancestors,” he said.
However, the authorities frown over their practice, with Betul district hospital surgeon Dr R Uikey calling it “dangerous”.
“The practice definitely poses threat of infections or deep wounds. As the bushes also contain dirt, there are high chances of the wounds turning into gangrene. It is also highly dangerous for people suffering from any sort of allergy. This practice should be stopped,” he said.